The 15-12 76ers have won four wins in their last five games, meanwhile the 16-11 Memphis Grizzlies have won seven in their last eight. Those two clubs match up Monday night in Memphis.
Here’s three takeaways:
Playing well without Morant
Since Ja Morant sprained his left knee on November 26, Memphis leads the league in defensive rating and net rating. The Grizzlies’ star point guard entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols last week.
Tyus Jones has started in Morant’s spot. Desmond Bane looks like he was a steal with the 30th pick. The 23-year-old wing has started every game for Memphis and averaged 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, shooting 39.9% from three-point range.
In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies will be without Brandon Clarke (right knee soreness), Sam Merrill (left ankle sprain), and Ziaire Williams (left ankle sprain). One or both members of Memphis’ typical starting frontcourt might be out, too, which would be a big break for the Sixers. Jaren Jackson Jr. was listed as questionable with left knee soreness and Steven Adams was listed as doubtful with a left ankle sprain. The Grizzlies upgraded Adams to questionable Monday afternoon.
None of the Sixers’ usual rotation players appeared on the NBA’s injury report.
Coming off best win of the season
The Sixers had a lot of good reasons to be motivated Saturday. They were in the national spotlight against a much-hyped 21-4 team and in front of a packed arena wondering whether Stephen Curry would break Ray Allen’s career three-point record.
The team’s victory over the Golden State Warriors was its best thus far. It wasn’t a flawless showing, though, as Joel Embiid acknowledged after a 26-point, nine-rebound night.
“We didn’t play well today,” Embiid said, “but we did a good enough job. We can get way better. … We always can get better, and that’s the good thing about us.”
For Matisse Thybulle, the most obvious area for potential improvement is three-point shooting. He’s at 29.2% this season from long range after a 2-for-3 game. Defensively, Thybulle is incredible.
In Shake Milton’s 19 minutes, the Sixers outscored Golden State by 20 points.
That number doesn’t show everything about the Sixers’ bench, but the team’s second unit played quite well Saturday. Andre Drummond was superior to Nemanja Bjelica and teamed up nicely on pick-and-rolls with Milton. Furkan Korkmaz is still stuck in a long slump — he’s made 27.8% of his field goals and 19.4% of his three-pointers over the last 16 games — but knocked down an important jumper late in the third quarter.
Milton, Drummond, Korkmaz, and Georges Niang have been regulars off the bench. Danny Green has not, but he surrendered his starting job on Saturday to Thybulle so the third-year wing could guard Stephen Curry.
We’ll see whether such a move becomes more common for head coach Doc Rivers. Regardless, the Sixers would be happy if their bench starts stringing together positive performances.
Catch the game tonight live from FedExForum at 8:00pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia and listen on 97.5 the Fanatic.